Sudan's president, Gen. Omar al-Bashir, is scared. Having flimflammed the United Nations and flouted its resolutions warning him to stop the mass killings and rapings of his black citizens in Darfur, the victims' avenger Luis Moreno-Ocampo chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague may finally be close to bringing this monstrous dictator to trial, the first sitting president indicted by the World Court.
Last July, Moreno-Ocampo had asked the ICC to issue arrest warrants for Al-Bashir on three counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and two of murder. The legal definition of genocide is: "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group." The prosecutor accuses Al-Bashir of a campaign to eliminate African Darfur tribes (Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa).
After the ICC asked for more supporting material to justify arrest warrants, on Nov. 21, Moreno-Ocampo submitted more than 700 pages of documented evidence, including witness statements. All of his previous requests for arrest warrants in other cases have been successful.
Adding to Al-Bashir's fears is the prospect of national elections next year demanded by foreign donor governments, and supported by the United Nations and many in Sudan. The Economist (Nov. 20) reports that the dictator and his henchmen "know that if even vaguely free and fair ballots were to take place throughout Sudan, they would lose heavily."
If Al-Bashir is subject to actual arrest by the ICC, he would find it exceedingly hard to rig the elections, as Mugabe first did in Zimbabwe.
But right now, in order to prevent attempts to take the dictator into custody by the ICC, there is a concerted, insistent attempt to get the United Nations to exercise its authority to defer any further action by the ICC. Ostensibly to assure "stability in the area," this Praetorian Guard protecting Al-Bashir includes the Arab states, some members of the African Union and, of course, China and Russia. The former is a major economic partner of Al-Bashir; and Russia is enlarging its role as Sudan, on Nov. 17, expressed readiness (Sudan Tribune) "to offer Russian companies working in the oil sector and railway construction in Sudan benefits" to further "bilateral economic cooperation."
Meanwhile, Al-Bashir is threatening that if the ICC does authorize his arrest, he will unleash his army and the Janjaweed to rid the country of humanitarian workers and turn Sudan into a bristling fortress to ensure his safety. Already, his "goons," reports The Economist, have been bullying staff workers in humanitarian officers "to hand over sensitive documents and computer files which, they suspect, could have been used as evidence against Mr. Bashir."
If Bashir's friends on the U.N. Security Council muster nine votes, that body will defer implementation of ICC arrest warrants. So far they are only two votes short.
Enter George W. Bush in the last days of his presidency. The first world leader to use the word "genocide" to describe Bashir's ceaseless atrocities, Bush has pledged to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that would prevent Bashir from being hauled off to be tried before the world at The Hague.
As Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth says (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 24) of Bush's action that could help save many lives and topple Bashir from power:
"That's the right thing to do, because if the Security Council were to succumb to Mr. Bashir's blackmail, it would only encourage more of the same from every tyrant or warlord who might fall into the ICC's sights. Any mass murderer could secure impunity for his crimes by simply threatening more mass murder."
Another member of the U.N. Security Council standing firm is France. That country is currently leading the European Union; and on Nov. 14, its ambassador to the Netherlands, Jean-Francois Blarel speaking at the Assembly of nation members of the International Criminal Court declared that the European Union: "intends to take this opportunity to reiterate the obligation to cooperate with the Court required from the Government of Sudan under resolution 1593 of the Security Council of the United Nations. That obligation to cooperate is not negotiable." (Sudan Tribune, Nov. 19).
President-elect Barack Obama has already told us some of his specific intentions to regenerate our beleaguered economy. Since, during his campaign for the presidency, Obama pledged "unstinting resolve" to end the humanitarian crisis in Darfur nailing Bashir's government as being responsible for thus devastation our next president, before taking office, could also signal to Bashir that if the ICC does issue the arrest warrants, he too will, as president, veto any U.N. Security Council resolution to suspend the execution of the warrants.
Significantly, his ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, long involved in trying to stop the genocide, has previously advocated naval blockades or even bombing Sudan. According to The New York Times, she will be in his Cabinet.
Currently, Bashir's thugs, to show his reaction if faced with arrest, have shut down a humanitarian project helping women of Darfur recover from Bashir's mass rapes. In retaliation, if a warrant is issued, says The Economist, many more of those rehabilitations projects will be abolished. And if Bashir stays in power by rigging next year's national election, what will the world do then if force is necessary to assure his removal to The Hague?
Is it possible that, like Robert Mugabe so far, Bashir will remain immune as the genocide and the raping go on and on.
How deeply would you care?